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Food hygiene regulations: What you need to know

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Running a food business isn’t just about serving customers tasty treats and delicious dishes. Compliance with food hygiene regulations is a must, otherwise, you may be liable to face penalties and enforcement action. As there are several different pieces of food hygiene legislation, it’s important to know the measures to take to protect customers and keep hygiene inspectors happy. 

We’ve broken down each piece of the food hygiene regulations in detail, to give you a handy insight into the food safety laws you need to follow. So, let's dive in and explore it a little more!

Staying responsible as a food business owner

When it comes to food safety responsibilities, the buck stops with the owner or operator of the business. The reality of this extends to other areas within the business. Anyone that handles, cooks or serves food within your business needs to know of the relevant food hygiene standards. 

You’ll need to assign roles and duties relating to cleaning, cooking, storing and preparing food, and safe measures to combat cross-contamination. Although responsibility for this range of duties is shared amongst your employees, you’ll still be regarded as responsible for how the measures are carried out and the level to which they are too.

So, what’s the key element in all this? Ultimately, it boils down to how well your staff are trained. Adequate training in food safety is simply a must! The actions of your employees in handling food are a direct reflection of the training and awareness they have around food safety. That’s a key element in how an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) will assess you during an inspection.

Food hygiene regulations in the UK

Since 1990, numerous food safety regulations have been introduced, amended and updated. Food hygiene regulations that have been relevant in the UK during this time: 

  • Food Safety Act 1990
  • Food Standards Act 1999
  • General Food Law (EU Law Regulations 178) 2002
  • General Food Regulations 2004
  • Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006
  • The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013
  • Food Information Regulations 2014

Food Safety Act 1990

The first piece of food safety legislation of its kind, the Food Safety Act 1990 has shaped and defined all subsequent food safety laws One of the key principles of this Act places the responsibility of food safety onto the business and its owner. It covers three key areas which are still very much a part of food hygiene regulations in the world of today. 

  • Accurate labelling of food items and what they contain 
  • Providing assurances on how food is treated to protect the health of consumers
  • Selling and trading food items that meet quality standards

Food Standards Act 1999

In the present day, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) regulates all food hygiene standards in the UK. The Food Standards Act 1999 was introduced to establish the FSA as the core decision-making body in relation to food safety guidelines. Courtesy of this Act, the FSA has the power to shape food hygiene rules and regulations under other pieces of legislation. They act in the best interest of the consumer across the whole food production and supply chain.

General Food Law (EU Law Regulations 178) 2002

As with all pieces of food hygiene legislation, the core aim is to protect public health. Known as the General Food Law 202, this retained EU Law offers protection across all stages of food production.  It outlines a series of criteria that you must meet as a food trading business which includes: 

  • If the food you serve is presented appropriately
  • Ensuring the information provided about the food product is suitable
  • Traceability of food across the entire supply chain
  • Recalling or withdrawing any unsafe food produce from the market
  • Any food imported into or exported from Great Britain is compliant with food safety standards

It also covers national laws on bulk transportation of goods by sea, such as oils and fats, restrictions on sales and supplies of raw cows’ milk and temperature control in retail stores that trade food.

General Food Regulations 2004

The General Food Regulations 2004 provided the platform for the introduction of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). It applies principles from the Food Safety Act 1990 to provide the following protections for consumers: 

  • Impose penalties on food businesses that do not comply with selling food deemed safe and appropriate on the market
  • Prohibits misleading advertisements or labelling of food products

Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006

This Act offers the most stringent legislation in relation to food hygiene. Using the Food Safety Act as guiding principles, this piece of legislation is arguably the most important for your business. As a responsible food business owner, you must adhere to the following regulations: 

  • You must not serve or sell food which is deemed unsafe to consume
  • Label food correctly and ensure quality standards are met
  • Ensure all staff have received proper food safety training
  • Have appropriate pest control measures in place
  • Register with your local authority
  • Hygiene standards are met across all areas of the business

This legislation was also updated to extend to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013

This Act relates to your working relationship with local and national authorities. Transparency is important in the world of food hygiene, and the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations 2013 were introduced to bridge any gaps between food businesses and the relevant local authority. If a business is responsible for selling unsafe products to the public, then it’s important for a local authority to trace exactly where the food came from.

Food Information Regulations 2014

Awareness around allergens has increased in recent years, and this law was introduced to offer further protection and transparency for consumers. Food vendors and businesses are now required to provide information on any allergens contained within the food products that are sold. 

Amendments to these regulations were introduced in October 2021 as a result of Natasha’s Law. This change means it is now mandatory to include the following: 

  • A clear label that states the name of the food product
  • Information on every ingredient contained within the food
  • Details of all relevant allergen information

Brush up on your food safety with iHasco

We understand it can take a while to digest the many pieces of legislation and the criteria within them. The best approach to adopt is to ensure you and your employees undertake a dedicated training course to fill any knowledge gaps you may have. 

We offer the following online courses, covering everything from food safety laws to basic kitchen hygiene rules. 

Or, why not combine all three and take a look at our food hygiene course bundle? You’ll gain a rounded perspective on all things relating to food safety. 

Ready to get started? Claim your free, no-obligation trial to any of our courses today or request a bespoke quote and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss your training needs.